Madison firefighters sent to Keystone fire

MADISON FIREFIGHTERS (left) Wade Bialas, Eric Johnson and Justin Olson pose next to Brush Truck 2, the fire truck they drove to the Black Hills on Monday. The men went West River to assist other firefighters in dealing with the Keystone fire. A second fire broke out near Mount Rushmore on Monday.

The Madison Fire Department has sent three local firefighters to help battle wildfires in the Black Hills.

Madison firefighters Wade Bialas, Eric Johnson and Justin Olson manned the department's Brush Truck 2 on Monday and headed toward the Keystone Fire that broke out near Mount Rushmore.

Madison Fire Chief Randy Minnaert said the firemen could remain in the Black Hills for up to 16 days, depending on wildfire conditions.

On Monday, two fires broke out in the Black Hills -- one located 1 1/2 miles south of Keystone and a second fire near Mount Rushmore -- according to KOTA News in Rapid City, an ABC affiliate.

The fire near Keystone was located south of town, and its size was downgraded to 15 acres in size late Monday. Firefighters were reportedly doing burnout operations and mop-up at the Keystone location.

The fire near Mount Rushmore, also called the 244 fire, was estimated late Monday to have grown to between 75 and 100 acres -- which included 15 threatened structures -- according to the Great Plains Fire Information Center. The center's personnel said more resources were directed to battle the fire.

Authorities had blocked off roads, and fire crews are investigating the area. Highway 244 was closed from Keystone to the stoplight at Mount Rushmore Memorial. Highway 16A starting at Grizzly Campground was also closed.

Emergency officials asked the public to stay out of the area for public and firefighter safety. The fire was burning in heavy dead and downed timber and possessed a high potential for spread due to high winds.

The National Weather Service continued to warn residents in southeastern South Dakota, including the counties of Lake, Moody, Brookings and Minnehaha, not to set any fires through at least Wednesday due to dangerous fire conditions prevalent across the region. Weather forecasters also asked residents to use machinery with caution due to sparks and to safely dispose of cigarette butts.

Early Tuesday morning, NWS personnel issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for southeast and east central South Dakota, northwest and west central Iowa, and southwest Minnesota.

Dangerous fire conditions -- caused by strong northwest winds with gusts up to 45 mph -- are possible throughout Tuesday afternoon. Forecasters said the winds combined with low relative humidity "...lead to very high grassland fire danger through sunset."

Warm, breezy and dry conditions will continue on Wednesday through the weekend, leading to an elevated grassland fire danger.